Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Today begins the new liturgical year of the Catholic Church. The season of Advent stands at the head of our calendar because it is a season of preparation and new beginnings. The birth of Jesus in history marks the beginning of something new. Just as God made a covenant with Abraham and renewed that covenant with Noah, Moses, and the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament, so the coming of Christ in time marks the beginning of the new and eternal covenant which God makes with his people. We who wait for the coming of Christ will pray today that we would have the grace to run forth to meet the Messiah, to persevere in faith and to remain true to the Gospel message. May this season of Advent be a time of true preparation, and a moment of renewal and new beginnings in faith.
In addition to being the start of a new liturgical year, this first Sunday of Advent is also a day of special honors for a number of our parishioners. Bishop Caggiano has nominated seven members of our parish for special papal honors, and Pope Francis has graciously granted his request. Charles and Ruth Chiusano and Sheila Clancy will receive the Benemerenti medal. This Pontifical decoration was instituted by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832 and is conferred on recipients for distinguished service to Catholic principles, the Church and society, and who have shown an active fidelity to and love for the Church. Robert and Barbara Scinto and Al and Chris DiGiudo will receive the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross. This Pontifical decoration was instituted by Pope Leo XIII in 1888 and is also conferred for distinguished service to the Church, and is the highest honor the Pope can confer on a lay person. The honors will be given during a vespers service this evening at St. Augustine Cathedral. Please join me in congratulating Charles, Ruth, Sheila, Bob, Barbara, Al, and Chris as they receive these awards, and in thanking them for their service to the Church!
Changing gears back to the season of Advent, it is worth noting that this year is the shortest possible chronological season of Advent. The Fourth Sunday of Advent is also December 24, Christmas Eve. As the practice of celebrating Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve has become increasingly popular, it is good to make our plans now. Please keep in mind that there are two distinct obligations for Mass. First, the weekly Sunday obligation will need to be observed. Second, the obligation to celebrate the Solemnity of the Nativity needs to be observed. The Fourth Sunday of Advent can be celebrated at one of the anticipated Masses on Saturday December 23 or at Mass in the morning on Sunday December 24. The obligation to assist at Mass on Christmas can be observed at one of the evening Masses on Sunday December 24 or on Christmas Day itself, December 25. In this bulletin, you will find the complete schedule for Masses for both the Fourth Sunday of Advent and for Christmas, along with a guide for fulfilling both obligations. Please note that the Mass schedule for the Fourth Sunday of Advent is unique, which will allow Fr. Brendan, Deacon Don, myself, and Mike Lantowski, our music director, a chance to breathe as we change gears to prepare for Christmas Masses. Next week, I will share some thoughts on the nature of vigils and anticipated Masses in the life of the Church and how the liturgical life of the Church helps us to enter into the mysteries of our faith.